Amma Darko about her name and her
Questions and enquiries usually put or made of me, both in and outside
Ghana, are the basis for these series of thoughts and remarks from me. Many
who know DARKO to be my maiden name yet see my marriage bands on my finger
and read everywhere that I am married, ask to know why I maintained my
maiden name in the writing world. While this phenomenon is not unusual in
the West, it still is here. A woman is expected to adopt the name of the
husband upon marriage. The reason in my case is that, I established myself
as a writer with my maiden name before I legally took on my marital name.
And in the writing world, an established name can make a whole lot of
difference. To change my name could be tantamount to starting afresh and
presenting myself as a new author to the world.
There is also the question of my tribe.
am a Fanti. Fanti is the dominant tribe in the Central Region of Ghana. The
Central Region is where most of Ghana's historical slave castles and forts
can be found. I inherited the name DARKO from my late father. DARKO is not a
Fanti surname. My father was not a Fanti. In Ghana, it is easy to know the
day of birth of a person by the local name, usually the first name he
carries. It is also easy to determine one's tribe to a great extent, from
one's surname. So sometimes I raise eyebrows when I declare to people who
know me as DARKO, that I am a Fanti.
In Ghana a child carries the name of the father automatically once the
father acknowledges the child as his. It is tradition. It should therefore
follow that the child would belong to the father's tribe. In Ghana it gets
tricky when a child carries the father's name but is of a matrilineal
lineage. Because in such a situation, while the child carries the surname of
the father as expected, being of a matrilineal lineage, the same child is
deemed to hail from the mother's tribe.
There are three scenarios. When both parents hail from the same tribe, the
identity of the children's tribe is straightforward and simple. They belong
to the parents’ tribe. That explains why many families prefer marriages
within the family.
When one parent hails from a clan with matrilineal lineage, and the other
parent hails from a patrilineal clan, a complication can ensue. Most of the
time however, the child ends up with the father's tribe, if the mother's
family is willing to let go, which is the case most of the time.
The third scenario is where I fall in. My parents hailed from different
tribes. My late father was of the AKWAPIM tribe and hailed from the
mountainous town called ABURI in the Eastern region. My late mother was a
FANTI, from SALTPOND in the Central Region. I carry my father's surname
DARKO but I belong to my mother's tribe. Many people who are familiar with
Ghanaian surnames often wonder why I have a typical AKWAPIM surname but
claim to be a FANTI. The explanation is that, while many FANTI clans are
matrilineal, many AKWAPIM clans are also patrilineal. But first, what is all
this about Matrilineal and Patrilineal? If a family is matrilineal, the
children inherit the mother, not the father. The father is rather inherited
by the nieces and nephews. With a patrilineal family, the children inherit
the father directly.
Coincidentally, my father's clan happened to be one of a few Akwapim
matrilineal lineages. So that, like the first scenario where both parents
hailed from the same tribe and therefore had same lineage, my parents,
though they were of different tribes, also had same matrilineal lineage. It
therefore followed automatically that while I carried my father's surname, I
belonged to my mother's tribe.
(Amma Darko, 2006)